The word cloud below shows that feedback, questions, and examples were all important terms. Specific and clear feedback was asked for in many cases. One student wrote, “Gentle constructive feedback.” As many of us know, reviewers and faculty can be a bit rough when reviewing materials. Winston Churchill once said, “When you have to kill a man, it costs nothing to be polite.” It is something to remember as we respond to students and our peers.
Another student wrote, “Give me advice about what needs to be improved, but with the advice give me guidance. My last research professor did not do that. … I do best when there is some guidance with the advice, and I feed off of that.” In many ways, it is important for faculty to model civil and courteous behavior to students.
Students asked for clear examples and templates. I explained that sometimes I provide examples in the form of past student exemplars. (Don’t forget to obtain permission to use them from the previous students.) At other times, the nature of the course is such that part of the assignment is for the student to analyze the issue and determine the best approach. In those cases, I do offer to provide feedback to students prior to submitting a final version.
It is also a solid practice to allow students who miss the mark to revise and resubmit assignments. This is because mastery of the material by each student should be a faculty member’s primary goal. Students ask for “high expectations” and to be supported as they “grow.” It is our job to support that growth in a humane manner. Remember, Carl Boyd has been quoted as stating, “No one rises to low expectations.” Dr. Boyd was correct. Students do need high expectations, but they also need to be reasonable and achievable. I have never understood the mindset that failing students makes the faculty member better.
Faculty are engaged in ensuring students learn. If students fail, we have failed. One way to ensure student success is to ask the students themselves. Asking at the beginning of the course is also a way to communicate to the students that you want them to be successful. Sometimes simply knowing that the professor cares can be a significant bump to student motivation–and all they need to fuel their success for the rest of the term.
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